Simple Spaghetti Sauce

A week ago I ran my first race of the year, the Gazelle Girl Half Marathon. It's an all female half marathon run in Grand Rapids, MI. This is the third year for the race and I've run it all three years now. It's fun race and I've really enjoyed being a part of it over the past few years. This year the race turned out the best yet both due to the weather and some course changes they've made. The first year of the race the weather was just awful, it was super cold (in the low 30s) with rain/sleet/snow the whole race along with a nice strong wind. Last year the temperature was okay, but I was scared it was going to rain the whole time. This year however, the sun was out the whole race and the temps were in the mid 40s or so. There was a little wind, but it was mainly a cross wind and not too bad, definitely could have been worse! The race organizers have also tweaked the course every year and this year it was by far the best yet. All in all a really nice spring run that I hope to be a part of for years to come. 

Although I'm not a big believer in the need to truly "carbo load" the night before a half marathon, I like to just pretend that it's necessary so I can whip together a big bowl of pasta and feel like it's a requirement that I eat it all! For this race a simple meat sauce was calling my name. This is the type of spaghetti sauce that my mom would make all the time when I was growing up, so for me this is true comfort food. It is so quick and easy to throw together and it always turns out simply delicious. Honestly, this is one of my favorite meals of all time, it will never get old, something I will return to over and over again. The perfect pre-race dinner for my first race of the year. 

There's no need to follow a recipe like this exactly, it's really easy to mix things up based on your preferences and what you have in your fridge/pantry. So don't feel tied to the recipe. You can use your favorite herbs and spices, the type of meat you prefer and really any type of canned tomatoes, whole, diced, or crushed. Other than that all a simple sauce like this needs is some onions and garlic and you're all set. In all honesty, this is one of my favorite meals of all times, and also a perfect pre-race pasta dinner. 

A few race pics; here's me at the finish, very happy that I'm almost done! And below me with some friends and fellow race participants, all glad to be finished!

Simple Spaghetti Sauce

Ingredients

  • 1/2 pound Italian sausage (can use turkey, chicken, or beef)
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 28 ounce can whole tomatoes
  • 1 28 ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 1-2 tablespoons dried oregano (or more if you like!)
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • Red pepper flakes, to taste
  • Olive oil 
  • Salt
  • Pinch of sugar

Directions

Brown meat in a large skillet. Remove from pan and drain on a paper towel if desired. Add a couple teaspoons of olive oil to the pan and add the onions and a couple pinches of salt. Cook over medium to low heat until beginning to wilt and starting to turn slightly golden, about 8-10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until nice and fragrant, a minute or two. Add the tomato paste and let it cook and caramelized for a few minutes without stirring, then mix it into the onion/garlic mixture. 

Add both cans of tomatoes and the meat back to the skillet and stir to combine. Add in the oregano, rosemary and red pepper flakes and stir again. Bring the sauce to a boil, then reduce to medium-low and let simmer. Taste, and add salt and a pinch of sugar as needed. You can eat it right away if in a hurry, but it tastes better the longer it can simmer and thicken, letting the flavors blend into a perfect sauce. I recommend at least 30 minutes but it will still be delicious if you can't wait that long. 

Serve over spaghetti and top with freshly grated parmesan cheese and some julienned basil leaves or minced fresh parsley. 

Capellini with Chicken, Spinach and Camembert

So I've been in my new apartment for one week now and I am loving it! Having my own space is amazing and something I was completely ready for. Unfortunately, these first couple of weeks in my new place also coincide with a couple of week of night shifts for school. So with all of this going on I hardly know what day it is, or what is going on with the rest of the world. Even so, that doesn't mean I want to eat poorly so I made sure to stock my cupboards and pantry full as soon as I could so I would have the ingredients to make simple and quick meals during these crazy couple of weeks. 

This pasta dish was one of my first meals in my new apartment (the very first meal being a fantastic peanut butter and banana sandwich on freshly made bread, delicious, but not as fun to talk about!) I threw it together with the stuff in my fridge and I was very pleased with how it turned out. Some roasted broccoli was all I needed to round it out. 

There is nothing fancy about this simple dish. It's really just spaghetti with some wilted spinach and chicken, finished off with one of my new favorites, Camembert cheese. I also added in some onions and garlic for flavor. If I had been trying to make this extra fancy I could have made a sauce with the cheese, using a roux and melting the cheese into it until smooth, but I was much too lazy for that. I just threw it in at the end and let it gently melt into the hot pasta. Perfect technique, no; still absolutely delicious and so much easier, yes!

Capellini with Chicken, Spinach and Camembert

From Jana

Ingredients

  • Olive oil
  • 1/4 small onion, sliced thin
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 ounces whole wheat capellini
  • Handful spinach
  • 4 ounces cooked chicken
  • 2 ounces (or more!) Camembert cheese
  • Pasta water
  • Salt
  • Parmesan cheese, for sprinkling on top

Directions

Fill a large pot with water, add a good handful of salt and bring water to boil. While the water is heating, add a couple of teaspoons of olive oil to a saute pan over medium heat. Once hot, add the onions and a pinch of salt. Saute the onions until they begin to soften and just start to brown, add garlic and cook until fragrant.

Once water begins to boil, cook capellini until just al dente. About 1-2 minutes before the pasta is finished cooking, add the spinach and the cooked chicken to the pan with the onions and garlic. Add a ladleful of pasta water and let the spinach begin to wilt.

When the pasta is finished cooking, add it to the saute pan along with the camembert. The heat from the pasta will continue to wilt the spinach and start to melt the cheese. Mix it all together in the saute pan, adding more pasta water if needed to form a nice sauce. Finish with a sprinkling of parmesan cheese if desired. 

Serves 2